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filmyak
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We all know that Houdini successfully marketed himself as the best escape artist ever. He may have even been correct, and if he was wrong, well, I think most of us can agree he was at least in the top 3 or 4 escape artists that had lived up until that point in time.

But why on earth are so many people around today upset when someone claims he is better than Houdini? It seems that trying to top "the master" is like baseball players beating Babe Ruth's records -- people just get angry about it.

Are we, as magicians, really hoping that no one comes along in the future who can top Houdini? Because I sure as heck hope the "best ever" doesn't stay on top forever, because that means that the art form has stopped evolving and that new magicians have no ability to move the art forward.

I don't want this to become a thread on any particular magician around nowadays, but as a general concept instead. Because there have been many claims from people saying they are better than Houdini, and the resulting backlash from magicians is always the same: It can't get better, so you are wrong. Which I find, personally, ludicrous.

Keep in mind that, just like many escape artists today, Houdini did what LOOKED like impossible stunts while they really relied on ingenious gimmicks and contraptions. He hyped up the danger of everything he did. He milked it all for drama. Were his crowds huge? Of course. He had no TV to compete with, and spectacles like his were incredibly rare and hard to see in his day.

So why on earth is the magic community so angry at anyone who tries to use the same tactics Houdini did to move the art forward?
Dr_Stephen_Midnight
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They shouldn't.

Granted, Houdini is a legend, and therefore still the most CELEBRATED and BEST KNOWN escape artist, but benchmarks are made to be exceeded.
For any escape artist (or anything else) to be called "The best there ever will be" is ludicrous, as we have no idea of what the future may bring.

Steve
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Mike: "No."
Dr. Lao: "Wise answer."
ChristianR
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Remember, Houdini was a great escape artist, not a magician, in fact he "was a terrible magician"
Tarbell!
Dr_Stephen_Midnight
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Oh...you saw him then. Smile

Steve
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mormonyoyoman
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Quote:
On 2005-08-22 18:27, Mad Duck wrote:
Remember, Houdini was a great escape artist, not a magician, in fact he "was a terrible magician"


But he gets better every year since his death, doesn't he?

*jeep!
--Chet
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irossall
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Quote:
On 2005-08-22 18:27, Mad Duck wrote:
Remember, Houdini was a great escape artist, not a magician, in fact he "was a terrible magician"


Terrible?
I think it takes great skill to hide "things" on your person while being examined nude or partially nude.
How did he get the name "King Of Kards"?
Houdini was doing Magic long before he was known as an Escape Artist.

I would like to know your references for that "Terrible Magician" statement.
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Dr_Stephen_Midnight
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Yes.
Houdini, like all other magicians, had his strengths and weaknesses.
He was no Dai Vernon at sleights; yet he was better than some.
He did little in the way of innovation outside of escapes and some areas of spirit effects, but his ability to present an illusion to best advantage cannot be understated (look at the walking through a wall illusion).
He was also a master at misdirection and spectator control (hey, he manipulated police and news reporters in police stations and prisons; doing it onstage was child's play by comparasin).
Add to that that he was constantly studying and was a scholar and collector of magical history...
He was far from a terrible magician.
Some critics liked his full evening show better than Thurston's.

Steve
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Mike: "No."
Dr. Lao: "Wise answer."
Wizzard
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Houdini, was, to say the least, a genius. When it came to promotion and salesmanship, his techniques are as valid today as they were when he was on top. His secret was very simple, he told the audience what he was going to do, then he did it! The drama and suspense was all a part of his act. In his day he was 'Extereme'. His constant promotion and tireless travel kept his name in the Limelight. His boundless energy and creative mental prowess could lead to only one result, being the greatest.
In the beginning of his career, Houdini sought out newspaper reporters and literally snared them into assisting him in his act. The reporter now befriended was able to introduce Houdini to just about everyone who was worth knowing.
The Houdini name to this day is synomymous with Magic!
Ask one hundred people on the street to name a famous Magician, I think you would be surprised how many would name Houdini!
Regards,
It's never the wand, it's always the magician
David Charvet
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Read William Rauscher's book: "The Houdini Code Mystery" (published by Mike Caveney's Magic Words) for what contemporary magicians and friends thought of Houdini as a magician. Most of it is not very flattering and will make you re-think the Houdini myth that has grown over the last 79 years since his death.

Here's a sample. Regarding his sleight of hand prowess:
"Houdini couldn't put his hands in Central Park without rustling the leaves." Harry Blackstone Sr.

And I don't think these comments are a case of "sour grapes" from jealous performers. There's just too many of them. I have also known people who knew Houdini and they have said the same thing: great showman, lousy magician.

Al Jolson (a contemporary of Houdini's) was called "The World's Greatest Entertainer" (not "singer.") Listen to his records today. Bing Crosby, Russ Columbo and many, many others had better voices, hands down. But Jolson was a SHOWMAN. So it was with Houdini. Nothing wrong with that.
Dr_Stephen_Midnight
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Actually, I think there was more 'sour grapes' to this than most modern detractors want to believe. Look at how many people attack the 'current great' in magic. If you're the 'big one,' you get tons of negative comments from others in the profession. Just check put the current threads on David Blaine and Chriss Angel. No, sheer numbers of negative barbs from rivals are not an accurate mirror of a performer's worth. If Houdini was even remotely as bad as other magicians had pegged him, the public would probably have shunned him.
Obviously they didn't.

Steve
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Mike: "No."
Dr. Lao: "Wise answer."
Professor Piper
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To address the general 'feel' of this topic/question a statement comes to mind:

...."To stand on the shoulders of giants to reach new heights..."


I think the problem comes with the territory...In other fields (Medicine, Astrology, Physics, Literature, Art, etc) we sometimes forget that, without the innovator's of old, we would not be were we are today.

Simply put: To the average audience, when they see a sub-trunk act, they, on the whole, have no idea where this came from or how it became popular (I do not know if Houdini invented it, so I won't state that)...He did, however, popularize it to the extent that it is still performed today.

Without Einstein we would not have the advances in Aero-Space engineering we have today (No Hubble, shuttle, etc)...

But, how many average citizens would equate the images of the Hubble Space Telescope to concepts either derieved or perfected by Einstein? Precious few.

So, it's in relativity (no pun intented) that the anger or jealousy comes to bear when someone states that they are "The next Houdini" or "Greater than Houdini"...

It isn't about talent to those magicians who get 'bent out of shape' over these comments...

It's about giving respect where respect is due.

Just my worthless two pence worth.

Prof. Piper

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daffydoug
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Houdini will always be at the top of my list...if only for his great showmanship that has people still talking abou him (and trying to top him!) to this day!
The difficult must become easy, the easy beautiful and the beautiful magical.
magicarisimon
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Although Houdini didn't perform many sleight-of-hand illusions, he was probably one of the most knowledgable people in regards to the sleights of the age. He used to expose psychics that used some complicated sleights. In regards to people not wanting to top Houdini, a lot of magicians don't want a legend to be dethroned because it is a constant thing for them, and psychology states that people don't like change.
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daffydoug
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That is true. I most definitely don't care to ever see Houdini dethroned. He has earned his place in magic history over many extended years of fame even after he has passed.

Besides, we are talking about the early roots of magic history here. Houdini is an inseparable part of our proud heritage/legacy. (As was blackstone, and others.)
The difficult must become easy, the easy beautiful and the beautiful magical.
irossall
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Houdini could never be "Dethroned" simply because he was the best at what he did in his time.
Today we live in a much different world than Houdini lived in and who knows what marvels Houdini would be performing today given the new technologies and material's we have to work with that were not even invented yet when Houdini was king.
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magic123454321
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He was the best influence ever
mormonyoyoman
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It's this simple:

There may be a better magician, now or in the future. But as long as people are comparing themselves (or are compared) to Houdini, then Houdini is the yardstick by which all magicians are measured.

He didn't have to be the best. He only had to convince enough people that he was the best. And that, he - and Bess - did.

*jeep!
--Chet
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eyeslie
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I really enjoy reading about houdini in "Jarret Magic", there is also some great info in "hiding the elephant"...both of which lead me to believe Houdini as not only selfish and cruel but also a rather bad magician.
Tony S
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Quote:
On 2005-10-20 01:23, eyeslie wrote:
I really enjoy reading about houdini in "Jarret Magic", there is also some great info in "hiding the elephant"...both of which lead me to believe Houdini as not only selfish and cruel but also a rather bad magician.


Yes, Jim Steinmeyer's descriptions of Houdini were certainly not the most flattering ever written. As a respected historian of magic, I believe you need to give some weight to his words.

Houdini, in my opinion, was the greatest escape artist of his time. He was also probably the best in history at promoting himself. This, of course, helped to build his legend. Was he the best magician ever? I never saw him so I couldn't tell you, but based on numerous descriptions I've read I doubt that he was. I'll bet he was *** good though.

I completely agree with the earlier post about how we, as magicians, tend to bash the people who are most popular in our field. I've never understood this. I've seen numerous posts out here about how Blaine is not a great magician. My guess is that most of these are from people who couldn't figure out how to make magic their full time business if their lives depended on it. You don't have to like any of the top magician's performance styles, or even the effects they do, but you've got to give them a whole lot of credit for rising to the top of their field and becoming as well known as they are.

Read Jim Sisti's article in last months MAGIC magazine. He addresses this very issue quite thoughtfully.

Tony
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Todd Robbins
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Houdini was great...but his was no Michael Ammar.
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